Category “Nature & Environment”

Man and the Natural World: Changing attitudes in England 1500–1800

Keith Thomas (1983)

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Moral Tribes

Joshua Greene (2013)

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This Changes Everything

Naomi Klein (2014)

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Ocean of Life

Callum Roberts (2013)

Ocean of Life: How our Seas are Changing, by Callum Roberts This book will be disappointing to anyone who has worked through Callum Robert’s spectacular The Unnatural History of the Sea. Ocean of Life, in contrast, is poorly structured, repetitive, and lacking in scientific detail and rigour throughout.

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The Energy of Nations

Jeremy Leggett (2013)

JeremyLeggett 2013 EnergyOfNations Lots of people believe that climate change is real. Many still believe that peak oil is real, even with today’s obfuscating fanfare around the extraction of unconventional oil and -gas. Jeremy Leggett takes a ‘risk approach’ to these twin threats. Most of all, though, his book provides an insightful look into what’s happening behind the scenes in climate- and energy lobbying. Highly recommended.

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Black Elk Speaks

John Neihardt (1932)

If you speak American, you cannot afford not to read this book.

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Nature: Western attitudes since ancient time

Peter Coates (1998)

An astounding book. Peter Coates does a remarkable job of canvasing into words a complex, nuanced and multi-dimensional concept: ‘nature’. A meta-study, really. Erudite, humble and somehow unopinionated through to the very end.

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Biofuels and the Globalization of Risk

(2010) James Smith

In writing this book, Smith sets his sights on more than just the consequences and risks, global and local, wrought by the (imprudent, he argues) adoption of biofuel technology and -policy.  His is also a deeper and more general meditation on the present Era’s faith in technology: “This narrow perspective, of looking to first-, second- and third-generation technologies to deal with the world that confronts us, blinds us to the teleologies that led us there in the first place.”  Biofuels present an ideal lens through which to cast light on this simple and profound observation. » Continue reading “Biofuels and the Globalization of Risk”

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On Nature

(1844) Ralph Waldo Emerson

The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine times folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart
The secret of its laboring heart,
Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin;
Self-kindled every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes.

There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection, when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather, which we distinguish by the name of the Indian Summer. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills and warm wide fields. To have lived through all its sunny hours, seems longevity enough. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. How willingly we would escape the barriers which render them comparatively impotent, escape the sophistication and second thought, and suffer nature to intrance us. The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into the opening landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature. » Continue reading “On Nature”

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The Origin of Species

(1859) Charles Darwin

Despite providing substantially more information on the inns and outs of breeding pigeons than you are liable to want, this really is quite a good read.  It is surprising how little Darwin speculates on the actual mechanism of variation that leads to altered forms with novel elements.

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